Monday, June 29, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Motivation

Men must want to do things out of their own innermost drive. People, not commercial organizations or chains of command, are what make great civilizations work. Every civilization depends upon the quality of individuals it produces. If you over-organize humans, over-legalize them, suppress their urge to greatness - they cannot work and their civilization collapses.

-- Frank Herbert, Children of Dune


Friday, June 12, 2009

Enterprise: Missing The Big Picture

Google is a glutton for punishment:
  • When will Books allow collapsing labels, just like GMail did?
  • When will Latitude merge back contacts that are already merged in Contacts, and why did they split them to begin with?
  • When will Books allow merging authors and titles, just like GMail merges contacts?
  • When will they allow labeling places in Maps?
  • When will they allow labeling events in Calendar?
  • When will they allow labeling products and vendors in Froogle?
  • When will they allow labeling search results in Search?
  • Just as Contacts grew out of GMail and Voice, will Labels grow out of GMail, Contacts and Books?
  • When will they remember the lessons of Smalltalk and allow meta-operations? For example, why can't I label labels?
  • When will Reader comments have the same level of markup as Blogger?
  • Speaking of which, when will Blogger comments have the same level of markup as Blogger blog entries?
  • When will YouTube allow promotion and elimination of search results just as Search does today?
Is your enterprise better, by the way?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quote Of The Day: Government

Good government never depends upon laws, but upon personal qualities of those who govern. The machine of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery. The most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.

-- Frank Herbert, Children of Dune

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

To Serve And Replace, or What Is Good Customer Support

Well, while the subject it still hot...

We all know, shit happens, things die. It's not "if", it's "when". So what do I, the customer, want from you, the manufacturer, when it gets to the customer service?

  • Be Immediate. I don't care if you can't afford to keep a 24/7 customer support line open. Otherwise, first of all, I will start to question your quality of service, then, my judgement in choosing your product. If you absolutely can't afford to keep the line - have a good automated system up.
  • Did I mention, Be Immediate? If my automated request for service falls into a black hole and I don't get any response, I get pissed. If I see HTTP 404, HTT 500 or Java stack traces or anything suchlike on your customers support site, I will get pissed even more. I will forgive those artifacts on your main site, but not on customer support site.
  • Be Transparent. In other words, Set Expectations. As long as you explain to me in plain terms what I need to do, and exactly what you will do, and how long it's going to take, and, most importantly, follow through exactly, I may be willing to overlook the fact that it was your product that had failed to begin with.
  • Be Fast. Not everybody has enough cash to throw around and buy a replacement immediately while you're taking your sweet time and move glacially. But it doesn't really matter - those who can afford to buy a replacement while waiting will hate you for making them spend extra, those who can't afford will hate you for making them wait and for lost opportunities. Both will bitch loudly.
  • Be Thorough. If you have to sneeze in order to make me happy, notify me about that in writing. And you bet your ass that I want to have the tracking number for that shipment you sent to me, 'cause not all of use live in neighborhoods where it is safe to leave a parcel on the porch. Even the carriers are not without fault sometimes.
  • Call Me, Don't Make Me Call You. Especially if you don't have 24/7 support line open. Most of us have jobs that don't allow to dedicate time on hold during your "normal working hours, 10AM to 2PM Wednesday through Thursday". If there is any movement on my case, no matter how insignificant, let me know so I can see you're working for me.
  • Don't Be Condescending. You don't know me. Assume I am a genius and know what I'm doing, until I irrefutably prove otherwise. If you treat me like a fool, I'm going to treat your product like crap that it is. And bitch loudly.
  • Don't Bullshit Me. If I catch you on a lie, you're dead meat. You may not keep records, but I do.
  • Know What You're Talking About. Along the same lines, if I catch you at not understanding your product as well as I do...
And, finally,
  • It's Not All About Money. It is about a spoiled gift (when it is DOA), or interruption of service, or lost profits (y'all know some people are telecommuting nowadays, right?), or lost opportunities ("damn, I have a job interview tomorrow, and all my preparation materials are locked up on a computer with a dead motherboard"), or missed deadlines ("<censored>! My coursework is toast, and it's due tomorrow!!!").
  • But wait, I lied, it is all about money. Go calculate how many of your products I have already bought in my life time, and then how many products I will not buy because of crappy customer service. And how many friends I will tell about my experiences with crappy customer service. And how many sales you will lose because of that.
So go and fix it already.

Antec Warranty: You've got to be kidding me

Remember, I was furious about dead Antec Phantom 500?

Finally, they did send up a replacement. They notified me about that a day after I, completely pissed, decided to bite the bullet and bought the replacement, Corsair CMPSU-750TX.

Another two weeks passed by, and finally the replacement from Antec came (by the way, I was never notified of a tracking number). The computer where Phantom died was operational again, so I was not in a hurry to open the box, and it was just laying in the corner.

Today, I've decided to clean up the shop and opened the box. And you won't believe what I've found inside.

Antec NeoPower 650 Blue.

I' missing something here. I've sent you a FANLESS PSU. You send me back one WITH A FAN. Could've had some common decency and told me upfront that you don't manufacture Phantoms any more, and can't send it back. I would've understood, or maybe would've asked for some sort of redemption - all in all, I've decided not to buy Antec PSUs any more. But no, you had to sneak up on me and make me exert extra efforts to call your RMA department (See Figure 1, also here) and figure out whether it was a mistake and Antec does have some spare Phantoms and they will fix it (provided I pay for shipping, both ways, of course), or I've just been had and now I'm stuck with this Blue <censored>.

I think I'm done with Antec for real this time. Not just the PSUs, everything.

UPDATE (2009/08/03): fail. Less than two months.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Wells Fargo Fraud Protective Latency Is Impressive

Bought an app for my Android, turned out that the vendor was in UK. Within LESS THAN A MINUTE I got an automated call from Wells Fargo fraud protection department, asking me whether I've initiated this transaction.

Wow. Not often I see this quality of service from our financial institutions.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Google Latitude: Late


Google Latitude is a service that allows to "see your friends' locations and status messages and share yours with them", according to their home page.

Well, let me see - people move pretty fast in this world. All right, I would be happy if there was about 30 minutes of delay - I understand that the infrastructure is complex, and Latitude is a loss leader, allowing Google to peddle location based services and gather massive statistics on us, mere mortals, in order to do that more efficiently.


But for Pete's sake, 20 hours is unacceptable. That's a good case. A bad case is a friend of mine that is being shown stuck in Nevada on May 10th, with no way out.


The worst part of it is that the worst behavior Latitude exhibits on the most touted mobile platform, the Android (Blackberries seem to be the most stable, WinMo just crash a lot). And even worse is that it seems to be a design feature.

Without being privy to implementation details, this is how it looks like from outside the black box upon a brief glance:
  • There is a entity that runs in background;
  • Whenever the memory gets tight, it gets booted out;
  • Bye-bye goes your Latitude presence;
  • Until the next time you run Maps.
Last time I checked, there was no way to make sure your class doesn't get evicted if there's a memory shortage.

Which means that Latitude users on Android are fundamentally <censored>.

As well as users on many other applications working as background services. Like I've said before, "almost working" seems to be the bane of the platform (which, by the way, makes me think that next Android phones will have significantly more memory than G1).

1.5 release didn't fix this. Let's see if 2.0 does.

For now, if your work depends on it, go with BlackBerry.

UPDATE (2009/06/14): There's been an update that is, among other things, supposed to fix this issue. Let's see how well it works.

UPDATE #2 (2009/06/14): Did I say "almost working" already? It is not clear yet how well the update timeliness is working. but one thing is absolutely certain: user pictures are randomly gone. First impression is that the only picture that stays on both receiving and sending end is the one the user has set for themselves, but if I have a picture assigned to the user, it will not show up. Guess another update is due soon.

UPDATE #3 (2009/09/18): Still nothing. Guess these problems are not on the "priority list", or are resolved in Android 1.6. Which is kind of moot, considering the fact that G1 may be unfit for new Android releases.

(Image credit: Mister Rad)